My first job was at a hotel and restaurant in a local village. I was employed there to work at the reception desk in the mornings. One morning I arrived to find the head chef having a blazing row with the owner as the breakfast chef had walked out. The owner, in a bid to calm down the chef volunteered me to help in the kitchen. I was terrified as I hadn’t ever set foot in a professional kitchen and the restaurant was chasing a Michelin star. I was taken to a blisteringly hot corner, shown an enormous mixer on the floor and told to make bread; 20 loaves of bread to be exact! To cut a long story short, my terror turned very quickly to enjoyment and 10 years later I still love making bread.
Bread-baking lends itself brilliantly to life with a baby. Although it takes a while to make, the work isn’t constant. You can spend 10 minutes with it and then walk away for an hour. The taste of homemade bread is unlike anything you can buy pre-sliced, and it contains far less ingredients. I checked a loaf of supermarket wholemeal bread yesterday and it contained 22 ingredients, including more sugar and salt than I am happy to feed Will. I don’t pretend that he is never exposed to sugar or salt, he is. But as far as possible I try to limit these, frankly unnecessary ingredients.
This wholemeal loaf recipe contains six ingredients and absolutely no nasties. It is a modified version of the recipe I used to follow before I became a Mum. This one has as little salt as possible (you need some for flavour and to inhibit the yeast). The same goes for the sugar content; I use light brown sugar as it is less refined than white sugar, and I have reduced the quantity as much as possible. It is a wonderful ‘every day’ bread with a great texture and a lovely taste. I do use a mixture of wholemeal and white bread flour to make the texture soft enough for little mouths.
- 400g Strong wholemeal flour
- 100g Strong white bread flour
- 1tsp salt
- 2tsp fast acting yeast
- 10g light brown sugar
- 30ml olive oil plus a little extra for your proving bowl
- 310ml-330ml of water (the water quantity you need to make the dough will vary depending on the day, on a wet day you will need less water than a hot dry day. Be led by the dough and stop adding water when it holds together as a nice ball of dough
- Weigh your flour and add to a large bowl
- Add the salt, yeast and sugar ensuring the yeast and salt are kept apart
- stir the dry ingredients together and make a well
- Add the oil and some water (around 50ml)
- Start mixing by hand or if using a mixer with a dough hook, start mixer on low
- slowly add water until the dough holds together and is play-dough like
- knead for 10-15 minutes either in mixer or by hand until your dough is elastic, you want to be able to pull a section of it until it is thin enough to see through
- At this stage grease your mixing bowl, place the dough back in it and loosely cover with cling film
- Leave to prove somewhere warm if possible for an hour or longer, until the dough has doubled in size and bounces back if you push a finger into it
- Knock the dough back for 5 minutes and shape your loaf, I tend to make this load round or oval.
- If you want to have any pattern on the loaf use a serrated knife or a lame if you have one to cut the design into your loaf
- Re-cover with the cling film loosely and put back somewhere warm for 30 minutes
- Preheat oven to 200 C.
- Put loaf in and bake for 30 minutes, the loaf should be a gorgeous brown and the bottom should feel hollow to tap.
- Leave to cool on a wire rack, or enjoy a hot slice with lots of butter!
Your house will smell amazing as this cooks and it will keep (thanks to the addition of the olive oil) for at least 3 days, not that it ever lasts that long in my house! This loaf has a nice crust but to make it a crisper crust spray some water into the oven to create steam when the loaf goes in.
It may seem time consuming but I promise its relatively low effort cooking and the reward you get it phenomenal. Once you start making bread you won’t be able to stop!